Moncrieff: 105-116; Treharne: 77-85
by Dennis Abrams
Before going to bed, Marcel explores the world of his hotel, “an armchair placed in a corner, a spinet, a blue porcelain vase filled with cinerarias on a console table, and, in an old frame, the phantom of a lady of long ago with powdered hair mingled with blue flowers, holding in her hand a bunch of carnations.” “If I had been tempted while asleep to let myself be swept back into my usual current of remembrance, the bed to which I was not accustomed, the careful attention to which I was obliged to pay to the position of my limbs when I turned over, were sufficient to adjust or maintain the thread of my dreams. It is the same with sleep as with our perception of the external world. It needs only a modification in our habits to make it poetic…” The worlds of sleep. “The secret garden…the convent with oopen windows through which we heard voices repeating the lessons learned before we went to sleep…the dim walls of that chamber which opens upon our dreams and within which the sorrows of love are wrapped in that oblivion whose incessant toil is interrupt and annulled by a nightmare heavy with reminiscences…the quarry to which our heavier slumbers repair in search of substances which coat the brain with so unbreakable a glaze…nightmares with their fantastic picture-books in which our relatives who are dead are shown meeting with serious accidents which at the same time do not preclude their speedy recovery…the revolving disc of awakening.” The different ways of waking up. Some mornings Marcel, “agitated by the desire to see my grandmother again or by the fear that she might be ill, or else by the memory of some business left half-finished…” sends word to Saint-Loup to come visit him. Marcel begins going to see Saint-Loup’s regiment doing field manoeuveres, which required long walks, and “I felt myself full of strength; life seemed to extend more amply before me; for I had reverted to the healthy tiredness of my childhood at combray on mornings after the days when we had taken the Guermantes walk. ”
Two major passages I’d like to share with you, and, hopefully, to get your thoughts and comments about.
1. “Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years…There is no need to travel in order to see it again, we must dig down inwardly to discover it.”
2. And this quote…well, it’s something I’ve always pondered…
“We call that a leaden sleep, and it seems as though, even for a few moments after such a sleep is ended, one has oneself become a simple figure of lead. One is no longer a person. How then, searching for one’s thoughts, one’s personality, as one searches for a lost object, does one recover one’s own self rather than any other? Why, when one begins again to think, is it not a personality other than the previous one that becomes incarnate in one? One fails to see what dictates the choice, or why, among the millions of human beings one might be, it is on the being one was the day before that unerringly one lays one’s hand. What is it that guides us, when there has been a real interruption — whether it be that our unconsciousness has been complete or our dreams entirely different from ourselves? There has indeed been death, as when the heart has ceased to beat and a rhythmical traction of the tongue revives us. No doubt the room, even if we have seen it only once before, awakens memories to which other, older memories cling, or perhaps some were dormant in us, of which we now become conscious. The resurrection at our awakening — after that beneficent attack of mental alienation which is sleep — must after all be similar to what occurs when we recall a name, a line, a refrain that we had forgotten. And perhaps the resurrection of the soul after death is to be conceived as a phenomenon of memory.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 116 “On days, when, although there was no parade…” through Page 140 “but a Radical-Socialist and a freemason.”
Treharne: Page 85 “On off-duty days when Saint-Loup,” through Page 102 “…a Radical-Socialist and a Freemason as well.”
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.